Wesley Snipes has opened up about his unmade Black Panther movie from the late 1990s. Snipes spent years trying to get Black Panther off the ground, and it was his frustration with the project’s slow development that led him to Blade instead. The original Blade is often credited with making comic book movies cool again after a long dry spell and Snipes proved to be perfect casting, being able to perform both the intense action and dramatic scenes in the film.
Two sequels to Blade followed in 2002 and 2004, and while Snipes still tried to develop a Black Panther movie during this period, it eventually fell apart. The character finally made his big screen debut in Captain America: Civil War played by Chadwick Boseman, where he chases after Bucky Barnes, who he believes is responsible for the death of his father T’Chaka. The Black Panther solo movie arrives in February, and is already drawing rave reviews from early screenings.
Now Wesley Snipes has opened up about the unmade Black Panther movie with THR. The movie was a passion project for the star, though he had trouble finding a script and a director that saw the material the way he did. Snipes was keen on hiring a young black director at the time, and he met with John Singleton (Boyz N The Hood) for the role, but they didn’t quite see the movie the same way:
"I laid on him my vision of the film being closer to what you see now: the whole world of Africa being a hidden, highly technically advanced society, cloaked by a force field, Vibranium. John was like, 'Nah! Hah! Hah! See, he’s got the spirit of the Black Panther, but he is trying to get his son to join the [civil rights activist] organization. And he and his son have a problem, and they have some strife because he is trying to be politically correct and his son wants to be a knucklehead.'
Snipes and Singleton eventually parted ways, and after years of pitches and failed scripts, the project stalled and Snipes moved on to Blade. The technology needed to bring Wakanda to life at the time was also an issue:
"Ultimately, we couldn’t find the right combination of script and director and, also at the time, we were so far ahead of the game in the thinking, the technology wasn’t there to do what they had already created in the comic book.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has nailed Black Panther’s signature costume, but Snipes was planning to rely on his own physique for T’Challa’s outfit:
"Actually, I figured it would be a leotard. A leotard with maybe some little cat ears on it. I would have to be in shape and just be straight bodied up. I never imagined anything more than a leotard at the time, which I didn’t have a problem with because I started out as a dancer.
It’s a shame Snipes didn’t get to bring his Black Panther movie to life because he was clearly passionate about the character. That said, he’s probably right about late 1990s technology not being ready to tackle the scope of the movie. Part of the reason fans are so excited for director Ryan Coogler’s vision of Black Panther is to see the world of the comics brought to life in all its glory. That, combined with the fantastic cast, means Black Panther might turn out to be one of Marvel’s best solo superhero films so far.